Nerve agent attack on Russian ex-spy looks like 'state-sponsored attempted murder,' British official says

  • The nerve agent attack on the former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter looks like "state-sponsored attempted murder," according to the chairman of the U.K.'s Foreign Affairs Committee.
  • Prime Minister Theresa May could announce on Monday that Downing Street believes that Moscow was behind the poisoning, according to British media.
Military personnel wearing protective suits remove a police car and other vehicles from a public car park as they continue investigations into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on March 11, 2018 in Salisbury, England.
Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images
Military personnel wearing protective suits remove a police car and other vehicles from a public car park as they continue investigations into the poisoning of Sergei Skripal on March 11, 2018 in Salisbury, England.

The nerve agent attack on the former Russian agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter looks like "state-sponsored attempted murder," according to the chairman of the U.K.'s Foreign Affairs Committee.

Tom Tugendhat told BBC Radio 4 on Monday that he expected Russia to be blamed for the March 4 attack on the ex-spy and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, England.

He said it was a "bit early to be absolutely certain of that" but added that the Russian government was "certainly behaving aggressively towards people in the U.K."

"We're expecting the prime minister to make an announcement soon and, frankly, I would be surprised if she did not point the finger at the Kremlin," Tugendhat told the BBC.

U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May will chair a meeting of the National Security Council, which includes senior ministers and intelligence chiefs, on Monday. She is expected to make a statement at 1630 London time and could announce that Downing Street believes that Moscow was behind the poisoning, according to British media.

The government could also announce any retaliatory measures, such as expelling Russian diplomats or more sanctions on Russian individuals and entities. Last week, U.K. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson called Russia a "malign and disruptive force."

The nerve agent used has not been named but can usually only be produced in specialist government laboratories.

Skripal's links to Russia's security services, and his subsequent work as a double agent for the U.K., put Moscow firmly in the spotlight for being behind the attack, although Russia has so far denied any involvement.

Ahead of any possible comments from the British government, the Kremlin's government spokesman said he had not heard of any allegations from U.K. lawmakers directed at Russia, Reuters reported. He also said that Skripal worked for British intelligence and the attack happened in Britain meaning "it was not a matter for the Russian government."

Monday's National Security Council meeting comes as specialist counter-terrorism police continue to search for the source of the nerve agent that was used to attack Skripal and his daughter. They were found unconscious on a bench outside a shopping center in Salisbury, a small town in the rural county of Wiltshire in England. Both are in a critical condition in hospital. A policeman who attended to the pair was also hospitalized, although his condition is now stable.

Traces of the nerve agent used were found at a pub and restaurant where the Skripals had been on the day they were taken ill.

Hundreds of people who were also in those locations on March 4 and 5 have been told to wash their clothes and any personal items, in case they had come into contact with the nerve agent.